2012 Bison Books paperback edition

Friday, March 16, 2012

What's With Jim Thorpe, PA, Anyway?

Jim Thorpe, PA

     It's complicated. Jim Thorpe was never in this pretty little gateway-to-the Poconos town while he was actually alive from 1887 to 1953. He -- or his body --didn't get there until he was dead and had been dead for eleven months. And he didn't get buried there officially until three years after that, on Memorial Day, May 30, 1957.
     You can read the full story of this bizarre Life After Death in my new biography of Thorpe, Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe
     However, since the Knopf hardcover was published in October 2012, a whole new Thorpe controversy has erupted. The two surviving sons of Thorpe's original eight children have brought a federal lawsuit against the town of Jim Thorpe under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) to have their father's remains exhumed and brought back to Oklahoma, where he was born and where, they say, he wanted to be buried. It was the Thorpe widow who cooked up the deal with the town, not them.
     Could be big. If the Thorpe sons, Bill and Dick, win this thing, it will be known as the Thorpe Case, an important legal precedent for NAGPRA and American Indian culture in general. Personally, as Thorpe's biographer, I can't think of a better legacy, a better end to the story of his life. The town faithfully honored their side of what was essentially a contract for a human body in 1953, but times and attitudes have changed in half a century. 
     Meanwhile, for the latest and thorough update on the case, read Neely Tucker's "Battle over athlete Jim Thorpe's burial site continues," the cover story of this Sunday's Washington Post magazine.

No comments:

Post a Comment